The Truth Behind Buybacks
Smaney, Michael, Mortgage Banking
All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second it is violently opposed Third it is accepted us being self-evident. --Arthur Schopenhauer, German philosopher (1788-1860)
For those of you who have been in the mortgage industry for longer than we all care to remember, you, too, have experienced the various stages of "truths." This is true when it comes to industry performance, as well as how new ideas are regarded before they become the norm. For those with less experience; you may have been surprised by the recent credit crisis. However, in some ways, it is just history repeating itself. * It is from this historical perspective--over the last 30 years--that I would like to explore the three stages of truth in the lending industry, and why today's investor repurchases are yet another link in the circle of lending. * My first exposure to a "lending crisis" happened in 1990 as our organization (a previous employer) was one of the top-producing mortgage lenders in the country and part of one of the world's top global banks. * Our operation was supported by a state-of-the-art process, with well-trained staff and a powerful, automated lending platform. Most of the loans that were produced through this origination machine were sold to one of the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs).
To spare you a complete history lesson, I will list what transpired in a 12-month period, from mid-1991 through mid-1992: 1) spurred by a U.S. real estate market meltdown, our lending organization became the nemesis that almost broke a global bank; 2) our chief executive officer had to meet with the president of the United States to explain how we were too big to fail and how we were going to get out of the non-performing loan mess (sound familiar?); and 3) our organization was close to putting our main GSE investor out of business because it held most of our non performing loans. At this point, things like self-insured loans, repurchases and layoffs were not a pleasant experience. However, there was a transformation that occurred as a result of the mortgage mess: the creation of mortgage credit scoring to help reduce the risk of producing loans that would not perform.
As the mortgage storm grew within our organization, some of our sister organizations had provided us with a number of suggestions to help us recover from our errant ways. One suggestion that stands out came from our credit card group. The group shared with us its unique credit-scoring capabilities and suggested that since we now had a portfolio of non-performing loans, we had the perfect environment to create the "scorecard" to reduce poor mortgage decisions in the future.
So it was off to the races to create a scoring system that would keep our organization out of mortgage trouble. It should be noted that in the early stages of creating the scorecard, there were some who were violently opposed to the option. Underwriters felt that their roles were more art than science, and that scoring would not work.
My thinking at the time was that if people could walk into a car dealership and purchase a $100,000 car and drive off the lot in 60 minutes, why couldn't they potentially purchase a house in the same amount of time if a scorecard justified that they could?
Fast-forward 20 years to the recent global credit crisis. Not only did U.S. homeowners collectively lose an estimated $7 trillion in home-equity value, but lenders are now seeing billions in repurchases that either puts them out of business or significantly impacts any chance of a profitable year(s).
While I would love to be able to solve world hunger and shepherd world peace to fruition, i will focus on a couple of transformations I am suggesting as the industry moves forward. I believe these could help minimize the chance of this type of event happening again.
While we can't go back in time and fix the current onslaught of repurchases, we can instead look forward to see how we can reduce investor repurchase risk due to errors in the process. …